I’ve just bought some Percorino cheese from our local alimentare. To be honest it’s not one of my favourite Italian cheeses. much preferring a lovely runny Gorgonzola but I must be in the minority as everyone else really seem to like it! This one is the very young variety and has a more delicate taste. Just wish it didn’t smell so much!
Sorry! But it’s made from sheep’s milk and I just do not like the smell. I’m the same with goats milk products too! I think that comes from rearing two adorable goats (Grits and Gruff) and doing all the mucking out!
I saw a news item yesterday in which Nicholas Niksadat reported that,
“At times of European austerity, Italy’s artisan cheese makers are resorting to some more unusual methods to make their products appealing to buyers.”
It was very interesting. It would appear some cheese producers are now using the underground caves built into the Tufo rock which is very common in Tuscany, to store and mature their pecorino cheeses. The rock serves as a natural and completely free refrigerator. In the Etruscan times people used these caves dug into the rock as natural refrigerators and now some cheese producers are doing the same.
The smooth, golden , round cheeses looked delightful, snugly wrapped in different coats. Hay, leaves, peppers, each imparting a different flavour to the cheese. I know one, very popular cheese around Castiglione and Assisi which is flavoured with the black truffle, Tartufo, a fungus as equally pungent as the sheep!
I first tasted Percorino cheese during my first ever visit to Umbria as an eighteen year old English girl used only to mild Lancashire Cheese so Pecorino came as a shock. I resigned myself to tasting and smiling! (Not much else one can do with a basic Italian vocab of ‘si’ , ‘no’ and ‘grazie’!
Of course this would have been the famous Pecorino di Norcia from the Perugia region, although at the time it was just a ‘pongy’ cheese to me!
I remember hearing how a nomad shepherd gave us the first cheese! He was carrying milk in a skin bag and all the jiggling about plus the heat enabled the enzymes from the animal skin to interact with the milk and, hey presto we had cheese! I can’t vouch for the authenticity of this story but guess it could happen!
The name Pecorino comes from the Latin word pecora (livestock) from where came the Italian ‘Pecora’ which means ‘sheep’.
There are SO many different Pecorinos but only four main varieties and the one normally exported is the Pecorino Romano which is produced on the island of Sardinia but also in the Tuscan province of Grosseto.
Another story I can’t vouch for although it was published in the PRNewswire so must be authentic, is that Pecorino cheese is really good for you! It seems that a study was carried out in Sardina between 2003 and 2009 which discovered that Pecorino Cheese contains high amounts of CLA a fatty acid which has many benefits including reducing fat, suppressing diabetes, inhibiting tumours etc, etc.
Now how convenient is that for the Italians who consume a massive quantity of cheese? 44lbs per person a year. But, its all relative and I must say that the Italians remain a lot more trim than many of their neighbours! They may appear to eat a lot but the actual portion sizes are so much smaller than those in Britain and probably about a third of those in the USA! Neither to they snack! Add to this lots of healthy fish and olive oil, espresso instead of calorific latte and what harm is a little Pecorino going to do?
Now here’s one of my favourite Pecorino recipes. Yes! Even I like it!
But it is very rich and def. not very healthy as it probably uses up your cheese/saturated fat allowance for a couple of days! Very easy and quick.
For two people.
Boil 4/6 OSS Spaghetti till al dente. Then drain but keep one tea-cup of the salted water.
Put spaghetti in serving dish. Add the reserved water plus 3ozs of grated Pecorino Cheese and lots of black pepper plus 1 tablespoon of single cream.
Toss well. Try and add more pepper or/and water if necessary.
I like to put the dish quickly in the microwave for 2 mins to make sure its piping hot.
Then simply serve with more grated cheese on top. You may prefer Parmesan for the sprinkling.
This is also nice with the addition of a handful of finely chopped walnuts.